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The Tibetan Buddhist canon is a loosely defined list of sacred texts recognized by various sects of Tibetan Buddhism. In addition to sutrayana texts from Early Buddhist (mostly Sarvastivada) and Mahayana sources, the Tibetan canon includes tantric texts.The Tibetan Canon underwent a final compilation in the 14th century by Buton Rinchen Drub (1290–1364).
The Tibetans did not have a formally arranged Mahayana canon and so devised their own scheme which divided texts into two broad categories:
The Kangyur is divided into sections on Vinaya, Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, Avatamsaka, Ratnakuta and other sutras (75% Mahayana, 25% Nikaya/Agama or Hinayana), and tantras. When exactly the term Kangyur was first used is not known. Collections of canonical Buddhist texts already existed in the time of Trisong Detsen, the sixth king of Tibet.
The exact number of texts in the Kangyur is not fixed. Each editor takes responsibility for removing texts he considers spurious or adding new translations. Currently there are about 12 available Kangyurs. These include the Derge, Lhasa, Narthang, Cone, Peking, Urga, Phudrak and Stog Palace versions, each named after the physical location of its printing (or copying in the case of manuscripts editions). In addition, some canonical texts have been found in Tabo and Dunhuang which provide earlier exemplars to texts found in the Kangyur. The majority of extant Kangyur editions appear to stem from the so-called Old Narthang Kangyur, though the Phukdrak and Tawang editions are thought to lie outside of that textual lineage. The stemma of the Kangyur have been well researched in particular by Helmut Eimer and Paul Harrison.
From the seventh century onward, existing literature were compiled and catalogued from time to time which later extended, upgraded, classified, reorganized and put in different sets of different collections. A separate set of translation works was re-grouped into two major collections popularly known as bka’-’gyur and bstan-’gyur, translation of Buddha’s discourses and translation of commentarial works respectively. The very first Tibetan catalogue was introduced during the period of the 39th Tibetan King khri-lde srong-btsen, also known as sad-na legs-mjing-gyon (776-815), who issued decrees “requiring all translation works that were extant in Tibetan from their Indian original to be catalogued and subjected to be recurrently reviewed and to set guidelines of terminology in order to standardize all translation works”. A team of Indian and Tibetan scholars was assigned for the purpose.
As a major step in this remarkable attempt at literary standardization, the bi-lingual glossary known as the Mahavyutpatti (sgra-sbyor bam-po gnyis-pa) was successfully accomplished in the Tibetan horse year (814 CE). Another great achievement was the cataloguing of the collections then available in royal libraries of the three famous Tibetan palaces under the supervision of the famous translator Bande sKa-ba dpal-brtsegs with help from his colleagues, Bande chos-kyi snying-po, Lo-tsa-wa Bande debendhara, Bande lhun-po and Bande klu’-dbang-po etc. The earliest catalogue compilation was recorded from the manuscript of the royal collection housed in the palace- pho-brang ‘phang-thang ka-med kyi gtsug-lag-kang in the Tibetan dog year. (818 CE) This cataloguing work became famous by the name of the palace and known as dkar-chag phang-thang-ma. Soon afterwards two further catalogues of collections available in two other royal libraries- pho-brang bsam-yas mchims-phu-ma and pho-brang stong-thang ldan-dkar were compiled and came to be known as dkar-chag mchims-phu-ma and dkar-chag ldan-dkar-ma respectively. dkar-chag ldan-dkar-ma was compiled in the dragon year (824 CE).
Among these three catalogues, ldan-dkar-ma, included in the volume Jo of sna-tsogs in sde-ge bka’-bstan, is generally believed to be the only surviving so far. But recently a manuscript of dkar-chag phang-thang-ma is discovered and published from Tibet. It contains 961 titles listed under 34 subject headings with additional information of numbers of verses (soloka and bampo ) that contains in each text. The ldan-dkar-ma catalogue comprises 735 titles and listed under a category of 27 subject headings. An interesting unique feature of Tibetan catalogue is that, alongside information about the source material of translation and the bibliographical details, it gives in physical descriptions, such as the nos. of words, verses, canto (bampo) and folios-pages in each of textual contents. Thus today we have a record of 73 million words contained in the bka’-’gyur & bstan-’gyur collection. According to the latest edition of Dharma Publication, the bKa’-‘gyur contains 1,115 texts, spread over 65,420 Tibetan folios amounting to 450,000 lines or 25 million words. Likewise, the bsTan-'gyur contains 3,387 texts using 127,000 folios amounting to 850,000 lines and 48 million words. The sum total of both these collections is 4,502 texts in 73 million words. By fixing bampo to verses and to words of each of the textual contents, the individual works are interpolation and alteration. This further strengthened the authenticity of Tibetan Buddhist literature. These are the first Tibetan catalogues in three versions that were compiled and published in the beginning of the ninth century by the great sgra-sgyur gyi lo-tsa-wa Bande sKa-ba dpal-brtsegs and his team. Tibet, thus, becomes the earliest to accomplish catalogue as inventory in the history of evolution of catalogue. Bande sKa-ba dpal-brtsegs is thus, honored as the pioneer of the Tibetan system. All the later compilers of the Tibetan Canon based their works extensively on sKa-ba dpal-brtsegs creation.
After the period of suppression during the reign of King glang-dar-ma’s (803-842) which brought the first chapter of the history of Tibetan literature to an abrupt end, the second phase in its development is reactivated. Since the beginning of 11th century onward Tibetan translators together with Indian panditas once again resumed their literary activity to bring about a new chapter to be known as "the era of new translation" and also "revival or later promulgation of Buddhism in Tibet". In addition to the previous works Tibet has produced a huge literary wealth both in terms of volume and range of coverage by the 13th century and this growth imposed to carry a fresh comprehensive bibliographical record and control existing literature.
In the mid-13th century a student of bcom-ldan rigs-ral (1200?), ’Jam-gag pak-shi, also known as mchims ’jam-dpal dbyangs (?-1267), who was the state priest of the Mongol emperor Ching Tsung, had managed to collect some amount of writing material and sent to his master with request for organizing and preparing catalogue of literature that were scattered all over Tibet. bcom-ldan rigs-ral with the help of his pupils dbu-pa blo-gsal byang-chub ye-shes, lo tsa-wa bsod-nams ’od-zer and rgyang-ro byang-chub ’bum, surveyed various parts mostly covering central and western Tibet. Authenticating and rectifying, they carefully scrutinize all the manuscripts of old and new translations and arranged them in order, compiling a comprehensive catalogue of a proto-bka’-‘gyur & bstan-’gyur. The catalogue was prepared into two sets of collections, entitled the dkar-chag bstan-pa rgyas-pa and dka-’gyur gyi dkar-chag nyi-ma’i ’od-zer respectively. Classification of Tibetan Buddhist canon or translation works into two main classes as bka’-’gyur & bstan-’gyur is basically derived from this catalogue.
’Jam-gag pak-shi was once again able to gather some good amount of writing materials and sent to Tibet with the requesting to re-inscribe all manuscripts and set in separate volumes. dbu-pa blo-gsal byang-chub ye-shes, who was the disciple of both bcom-ldan rigs-ral and ’jam-gag pak-shi, was entrusted for this new task. He with colleagues, dutifully accomplished the work and published for the first time a complete and new set of volumes of - bka’-’gyur & bstan-’gyur and placed at atemple, ‘jam-lha-khang of the snar thang monastery which later became famous as snar thang edition. Unfortunately, both the catalogues and volumes of this hand-written oldest edition of the bka’-’gyur & bstan-’gyur are no longer available.
The Tibetan part of the Chinese tripitaka Zhonghua da zang jing (中華大藏經) was published in 2008.
These are all woodcut editions:
These are all manuscript editions:
The following sigla are regularly used in scholarly editions of Kanjur texts.
A number of catalogues have been published.
In the Tibetan tradition, some collections of teachings and practices are held in greater secrecy than others. The sutra tradition comprises works said to be derived from the public teachings of the Buddha, and is taught widely and publicly. The esoteric tradition of tantra (below) is generally only shared in more intimate settings with those students who the teacher feels have the capacity to utilize it well.
The collection of the tantras of the Nyingma is known as the Nyingma Gyubum. The division used by the Nyingma or Ancient school:
The Sarma or New Translation schools of Tibetan Buddhism (Gelug, Sakya, and Kagyu) divide the Tantras into four hierarchical categories, namely,
"The Yoginī Tantras correspond to what later Tibetan commentators termed the "Mother Tantras" (ma rgyud)" (CST, p. 5).
In the earlier scheme of classification, the "class ... "Yoga Tantras," ... includes tantras such as the Guhyasamāja", later "classified as "Father Tantras" (pha rgyud) ... placed in the ultimate class ... "Unexcelled Yoga tanras" (rnal 'byor bla med kyi rgyud)" (CST, p. 5).
In addition to texts attributed to Shakyamuni Buddha and other Buddhas, the Tibetan Buddhist canon (specifically the Tenjur) contains a number of commentaries composed by Indian authors. Below are the authors the tradition holds to be of paramount importance.
References are sometimes made to the Seventeen Great Panditas. This formulation groups the eight listed above with the following nine scholars.
Study of the Tibetan Buddhist canon is a focal point of the monastic curriculum. All four schools of Tibetan Buddhism generally follow a similar curriculum, using the same Indian root texts and commentaries. The further Tibetan commentaries they use differ by school, although since the 19th-century appearance of the Rimé movement scholars Jamgon Kongtrul, Jamgon Ju Mipham Gyatso and Khenpo Shenga, Kagyupas and Nyingmapas use many of the same Tibetan commentaries as well. Different schools, however, place emphasis and concentrate attention on different areas.
The exoteric study of Buddhism is generally organized into "Five Topics," listed as follows with the primary Indian source texts for each:
Also of great importance are the "Five Treatises of Maitreya." These texts are said to have been taught to Asanga by Maitreya (according to the Buddhist tradition, he is the future Buddha who currently resides in Tushita-Heaven; some scholars, for example, Frauwallner and Tucci believe Maitreya was a historical person who had to be Asangas teacher), and comprise the heart of the Shentong-Madhyamaka, as well as Yogacara school of philosophical thought in which all Tibetan Buddhist scholars are well-versed. They are as follows:
A commentary on the Ornament for Clear Realization called Clarifying the Meaning by the Indian scholar Haribhadra is often used, as is one by Vimuktisena.
Tibetan Buddhism is the form of Buddhism practiced in Tibet where it is the dominant religion. It is also found in the regions surrounding the Himalayas, much of Chinese Central Asia, the Southern Siberian regions such as Tuva, as well as Mongolia.
The Kagyu, Kagyü, or Kagyud school, which translates to "Oral Lineage" or "Whispered Transmission" school, is one of the main schools of Himalayan or Tibetan Buddhism. The Kagyu lineages trace themselves back to the 11th century Indian Mahasiddhas Naropa, Maitripa and the yogini Niguma, via their student Marpa Lotsawa (1012–1097), who brought their teachings to Tibet. Marpa's student Milarepa was also an influential poet and teacher.
The Kadam school of Tibetan Buddhism was founded by Dromtön (1005–1064), a Tibetan lay master and the foremost disciple of the great Bengali master Atiśa (982-1054). The Kadampa were quite famous and respected for their proper and earnest Dharma practice. The most evident teachings of that tradition were the teachings on bodhicitta. Later, these special presentations became known as lojong and lamrim by Atiśa.
The Heart Sūtra is a popular sutra in Mahāyāna Buddhism. Its Sanskrit title, Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya, can be translated as "The Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom".
The Chinese Buddhist canon refers to the total body of Buddhist literature deemed canonical in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese Buddhism. The traditional term for the canon ."
The Sutra is the compilation of Buddha's words, and the Sutra is the basic basis of Buddhist doctrines; the law is the discipline or code of conduct formulated by Buddhist organizations for believers or believers; the theory is the interpretation or elaboration of the Sutra and the law.
The Nyingma tradition is the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. "Nyingma" literally means "ancient," and is often referred to as Ngangyur because it is founded on the first translations of Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Old Tibetan in the eighth century. The Tibetan alphabet and grammar was created for this endeavour.
The Śūraṅgama Sūtra is a Mahayana Buddhist sutra that has been especially influential in Chan Buddhism. The general doctrinal outlook of the Śūraṅgama Sūtra is that of esoteric Buddhism and Buddha-nature, with some influence from Yogacara. There have been questions regarding the translation of this sutra as it was not sponsored by the Imperial Chinese Court and as such the records regarding its translation in the early eighth century were not carefully preserved ; however, it has never been classified as apocrypha in any Chinese-language Tripitakas including the Taisho Tripitaka where it is placed in the Esoteric Sutra category (密教部). The sutra was translated into Tibetan during the late eighth to early ninth century and a complete translation exists in Tibetan, Mongolian and the Manchu languages. Current consensus is that the text is a compilation of Indic materials with extensive editing in China, rather than a translation of a single text from Sanskrit. A Sanskrit language palm leaf manuscript consisting of 226 leaves with 6 leaves missing was discovered in a temple in China; if verified, the perennial questions regarding the authenticity of the Śūraṅgama Sūtra can be put to rest.
The Tibetan Buddhist canon is a loosely defined list of sacred texts recognized by various schools of Tibetan Buddhism, comprising the Kangyur or Kanjur and the Tengyur or Tanjur (Tengyur).
The Buddhist Tantras are a varied group of Indian and Tibetan texts which outline unique views and practices of the Buddhist tantra religious systems.
The Tengyur or Tanjur or Bstan-’gyur is the Tibetan collection of commentaries to the Buddhist teachings, or "Translated Treatises".
The Brahmajāla Sūtra, also called the Brahma's Net Sutra, is a Mahayana Buddhist Vinaya Sutra. The Chinese translation can be found in the Taishō Tripiṭaka. The Tibetan translation can be found in Peking (Beijing) Kangyur 256. From the Tibetan it was also translated into Mongolian and the Manchu languages. It is known alternatively as the Brahmajāla Bodhisattva Śīla Sūtra.
Shedra is a Tibetan word meaning "place of teaching" but specifically refers to the educational program in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries. It is usually attended by monks and nuns between their early teen years and early twenties. Not all young monastics enter a shedra; some study ritual practices instead. Shedra is variously described as a university, monastic college, or philosophy school. The age range of students typically corresponds to both secondary school and college. After completing a shedra, some monks continue with further scholastic training toward a Khenpo or Geshe degree, and other monks pursue training in ritual practices.
The name Karma Chagme refers to a 17th-century Tibetan Buddhist (Vajrayāna) lama and to the tülku lineage which he initiated. Including the first, seven Karma Chagme tülkus have been recognized. The Neydo Kagyu sub-school of the Karma Kagyu was established by the first Karma Chagme, Rāga Asya.
The Karchag Phangthangma is one of three historically attested Tibetan imperial catalogues listing translations mainly of Sanskrit Buddhist texts translated to Tibetan. The title, in Tibetan dkar-chag 'phang-thang-ma, simply means the catalogue/index (karchag) from Phangthang.
The Changkya Khutukhtu was the title held by the spiritual head of the Gelug lineage of Tibetan Buddhism in Inner Mongolia during the Qing dynasty.
Nyingma Gyubum is the Mahayoga, Anuyoga and Atiyoga Tantras of the Nyingma lineage.
Zhang Yudrakpa Tsöndru Drakpa (1122–93) (zhang g.yu brag pa brtson 'gru brags pa), also known as Gungtang Lama Zhang(gung-thang bla-ma zhang) and often simply as “Lama Zhang,” was the founder of the Tshalpa Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Zhang Yudrakpa was a prominent religious figure, and his extensive involvement in the political and military conflicts of Tibet was controversial at the time.
Changkya Rölpé Dorjé (1717-1786) was a principal Tibetan Buddhist teacher in the Qing court, a close associate of the Qianlong Emperor of China, and an important intermediary between the imperial court and Inner Asia. He also oversaw the translation of the Tibetan Buddhist canon into Classical Mongolian and Manchu. He also was involved in the compilation of a quadralingual set and supervised the translation from Chinese into Manchurian, Mongolian and Tibetan of the entire Śūraṅgama Sūtra completed in 1763; the Tibetan translation is currently preserved in a supplement to the Narthang Kangyur.
Patsab Nyima Drakpa (1055-1145?) was a Tibetan Buddhist scholar and translator of the Sarma era. He was a monk at Sangpu monastery and traveled to Kashmir where he translated Buddhist Madhyamika texts.